Note: The winner of this giveaway is Carl S. Congratulations to Carl and thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.
Please join me today in welcoming author C.F. Yetmen, whose post-World War II novel picks up where George Clooney’s new The Monuments Men movie leaves off.
In this exclusive interview with C.F., she discloses why she wrote
her novel, THE ROSES UNDERNEATH, plus the most surprising thing she learned writing it. In addition, C.F. is giving away one signed paperback copy of her book to a lucky visitor to Thoughts. Please see the end of the post for details.
Here’s a brief synopsis of THE ROSES UNDERNEATH:
August 1945, Wiesbaden, Germany. With the country in ruins, Anna Klein, displaced and separated from her beloved husband, struggles to support herself and her six-year-old daughter, Amalia. Her typing job at the Collecting Point for the US Army’s Monuments Men is the only thing keeping her afloat.
Charged with securing Nazi-looted art and rebuilding Germany’s monuments, the Americans are on the hunt for stolen treasures. But after the horrors of the war, Anna wants only to hide from the truth and rebuild a life with her family. When easy-going American Captain Henry Cooper recruits her as his reluctant translator, the two of them stumble on a mysterious stash of art in a villa outside of town.
Cooper’s penchant for breaking the rules capsizes Anna’s tenuous security and propels her into a search for elusive truth and justice in a world where everyone is hiding something.
C.F. joins us now and has graciously answered some questions. Welcome, C.F.
Mason –THE ROSES UNDERNEATH is such a fascinating story. What inspired you to write it?
I am delighted that you think so! The true experiences of my grandmother and my mother in Germany at the immediate end of World War II has always interested me. Because she spoke English, my German grandmother found work as a secretary for an American officer during the occupation. She credited this with saving her life. I wanted to tell that story in some way but didn’t know how to go about it. When I saw a documentary about the work of the Monuments Men I became totally fascinated by them and started reading all I could about them. That led to a convergence of ideas that created the setting for the novel.
Mason - What was your writing schedule like? Did you have a favorite place and time to write and did you listen to music?
I write best in the very early morning, so a lot of the book was written between the hours of four and six AM, before the regular day got started. But I also carved out other times whenever I could. When I wasn’t writing in my office, I was working on my laptop somewhere. I try not to be too precious about where and when I work, because you just have to take the opportunities when they arise and sometimes you are working against the clock. I did have a thing about music when working on the book – I only listened to Beethoven when I wrote, and usually I would start a writing session with the second movement of the 7th Symphony, which is just the most beautiful piece of music. Maybe it sounds pretentious, but there is something very heroic and steadfast about Beethoven that seemed to resonate with the ideas in the book. It did to me, anyway.
Mason - How did you go about doing research for your book?
I absolutely love research. I read a ton of books about German civilians’ experiences of the war, specifically women, but also German soldiers. There are more accounts of Wehrmacht—the regular army—soldiers coming to light now, so those were very powerful. Of course the books about the Monuments Men and Hitler’s art theft, and memoirs of several Monuments Men themselves were very helpful – and so interesting. About a year into my research the entire Monuments Men archive was put online, which was just about the best present I ever got. I would vanish for hours inside those pages. I also traveled to Wiesbaden and met with the city archivist who provided images of the city as it looked in 1945. I went the Landes museum, where the Collecting Point had been located and walked the streets surrounding it. It gave me a good sense of the place, which I knew would be important for the book. I also watched a lot of movies and documentaries. A lot.
Mason - After the book’s publication, looking back what was the most surprising thing you discovered while writing it?
In terms of the story, the thing that surprised me most was the character of Oskar. I had a plan for that kid, and he just refused to go along with it. I felt very much like Anna, trying to get information out of him to find out what his story was. He was one character that asserted himself into the story in a way I didn’t really know was possible. People talk about their characters taking on a will of their own, but I didn't really believe it until it happened to me. I think it had something to do with my not actually knowing his whole backstory. For all the other characters I was very clear on who they are, what their experiences of the war were, and what their point of view is. Oskar played his background very close to the vest. And he just refused to cooperate, so I had to figure him out as the story went along.
Mason - What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing a writing career?
The only advice I can give is if you want to be a writer, write. Learn the craft, seek out other writers, create an environment that supports your writing life. And don’t give up when it gets hard. Just keep going. And read, of course!
Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
I am working on the next book in the series. There is still so much in Anna’s life that she has to reconcile, and things at the Collecting Point get more and more interesting. With so much history to take inspiration from it is intriguing for me to see where these characters will go next.
C.F., thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at how your book came to be. Your research journey sounds fascinating.
Now let me share a bit about C.F.
C.F. Yetmen is a writer and consultant specializing in architecture and design. She is co-author of The Owner’s Dilemma: Driving Success and Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry and a former publisher of Texas Architect magazine. THE ROSES UNDERNEATH is her first novel.
For more on C.F., visit her website and blog. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.
Here’s what some are already saying about this fascinating story:
“A fascinating tale of survival, intrigue, and Nazi looted art amid the ruins of 1945 Germany. It’s a world in which very little is what it appears to be and everyone has a story they don’t want to tell. The author exploits this place and time deliciously.”
James Kunetka, New York Times best selling author
“Fans of Alan Furst will be delighted with this debut novel from the perspective of WW II survivors as they dig themselves out of the rubble and face deprivation and dislocation under Allied command. Yetmen has created a fascinating and complex heroine torn between ‘good Germans and bad Germans’ and the Americans who struggle to occupy and heal a vanquished nation.”
Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross and The White League
“Yetmen turns the narrative of the Allied forces’ Monuments Men 180 degrees and gives us a German protagonist: a young woman who, with her daughter, has survived the war but now must figure out how to survive its aftermath. Yetmen rejects heroism and absolutes in favor of a more complex portrayal of postwar Germany and its American occupiers in which good can look like evil, evil can look like good, and no one is blameless. This page-turner from a talented new writer deserves a place on every historical fiction-lover’s bedside table.”
Kathy Leonard Czepiel, author of A Violet Season
This giveaway is for one signed paperback copy of THE ROSES UNDERNEATH.
To enter, please send me an e-mail (email@example.com) with the subject line, “Win The Roses Underneath.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of THE ROSES UNDERNEATH is 8 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Feb. 14.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you find this period of history intriguing? Are you planning to go see The Monuments Men when it opens in theatres Friday?